CMO Secrets with David Meiselman

Welcome to our new blog series, CMO Secrets. The first and third Wednesday of every month, we feature an exceptional Marketing leader from around the industry. Some names will be easily recognized, and others may be new to you, but every single one will have been hand picked for their experience and knowledge in the world of Startups, Technology, and Marketing. The questions are ours, but the answers are theirs – every word, shared without edit, from their fingers to your eyes.

Today, we welcome David Meiselman. David is CMO of ezCater, the only nationwide marketplace for business catering, and he has spent 25 years building awareness and driving demand for innovative technology products of all kinds. After receiving his Master’s in International Economics from Johns Hopkins University, David began his career with Merrill Lynch before moving into marketing with technology growth companies like Nobilis, Transparent Language, and Actifio. In addition to driving growth for tech companies, David makes a solid Manhattan, cooks a mean risotto, and has coached over 400 youth soccer games.

Tell us about ezCater, why you were excited to join them, and the role marketing plays there.

ezCater is the only nationwide online marketplace for business catering. We connect businesspeople to over 60,000 reliable local restaurants everywhere in the United States. Whether you’re a salesperson bringing in food to a client’s office, an executive admin feeding a meeting, or an office manager feeding a whole office, we can help. ezCater’s award-winning app and website, our 2 million+ ratings and reviews, and our 24-7 customer service team will make it super easy for you to get awesome food delivered on-time. I joined ezCater for three primary reasons. First of all, ezCater is disrupting a huge market. $22 Billion is spent on business catering every year in just the U.S., so the opportunity to build something big is enormous. Second, I love marketplaces and I’m a bit of a foodie. My wife was actually a caterer years ago and might still be if something like ezCater had existed then. Finally, ezCater had a great team with an amazing culture and already had product market fit, but didn’t really have a marketing department. I was attracted to building a modern marketing function from scratch. In the last three years, we’ve built an incredible marketing team here who has a massive impact on our business. In addition to core brand, buzz, and messaging, our team drives both direct acquisition of customers through digital marketing and also drives demand into our sales teams on both sides of the marketplace. Finally, we use data and automation in some pretty complex and interesting ways to optimize the customer journey for our buyers and deepen the engagement of our catering partners over time. It’s a lot of fun and I am hugely proud of our team.

Transitions tend to bring many lessons. Is there one lesson you can share from your transition from B2B marketer to a business that serves both B2B and B2C audiences?

So, I have previous experience as both a B2B and B2C marketer and the biggest lesson I have learned from all of those transitions is that there are things in all types of experiences that can inform and help the things you do today. It might not be exactly the same, but it helps to map those things you have seen be effective before and figure out what version of that same thing could help you in your current situation. For example, B2B marketers can learn a lot from how B2C marketers nurture an individual through a customer journey. Likewise, B2C marketers can take a page from how B2B marketers attempt to create trust and credibility through the validation of awards and analyst reviews.

What are a few of the key differences between a dual-sided marketplace and a strictly B2B organization, in terms of the makeup and approach of the marketing team, the technology needs, etc. And are there any similarities that you have found that you may not have anticipated?

The biggest difference is that that you need to measure the success of sales and marketing in ways that go beyond just acquiring new customers and driving sustained growth in purchase volume. You need to build both the supply and the demand to grow marketplace transaction volume. Consequently, you need to define different personas for each side and organize your activities to drive those different outcomes. We have teams that focus on buy side acquisition and customer retention and we also have teams that focus on restaurant acquisition and engagement. On top of that, we have some more functional teams that serve both sides, like MarCom and Marketing Ops and Automation. Some things in those functions behave much like straight forward B2B businesses, like creating the right tech stack or building company level awareness. Other aspects, like building a multi-sided and leveled data model or routing workflows can get pretty complex. It’s certainly never boring.

Are there any types of marketing decisions that you struggle with? Or, put another way, marketing opportunities or decisions that create the most debate among your team? And what advice would you offer to other marketers on how to move forward as a team when there are differing perspectives?

I’d say the biggest thing we wrestle with is determining when and how to shift and allocate resources to broader awareness activities away from more response-oriented, lower-funnel programs like search. Whenever smart people disagree, the best way to find your way forward is to use testing and data to validate and illuminate things. ezCater has a strong culture of testing and tracking things and that works well for us. Only testing frequently and using the data to learn can really help you find the best path forward.

If you could wave a wand and fix one area of 2018 marketing – for all marketers – what would it be (ie – attribution, ABM, end-to-end session tracking, easier integration across stack)?

I would totally wave that magic wand and give all marketers a complete and pure view of all touchpoints and influence over the customer journey. There are all sorts of cool advances happening there, but it is still pretty frustrating trying to understand the impact of a view-through or accurately track a cross-device conversion, to say nothing of being able to connect interactions had with the same people on disparate platforms like Facebook and Google.

In your experience, what traits or behaviors separate good marketers from great marketers? And how do you vet those when hiring?

Great marketers today need to be able to use both sides of their brain. They need to have empathy for their customer, tell great stories, and develop great creative to feed programs AND they need to optimize those programs using data. Add to those things the ability to just figure stuff out and get stuff done and you have a complete marketer. When hiring, we vet those qualities by digging into real examples from candidates’ past experience where they used data to help make decisions and drive results. I also love hearing stories about how candidates had an objective and the only way they could achieve it was to teach themselves something to get it done. Empathetic and creative marketers that use data effectively and are relentless are unstoppable. Those that can drive things on their own and also play well with others are even better.

What’s the most impactful change you think we’ll see in digital marketing in the next 5 years?

I know some people might be tired of hearing this but AI and Machine Learning are already transforming the landscape and they’re just getting started. You see it in advertising platforms already, but the same concepts will be able to optimize all sorts of other programs like email, conversations, and personalized content in short order. Give the machines enough data and point them in the right direction and all the time we used to spend toiling and testing one thing against another will disappear very quickly. There is almost nothing that we do that won’t be touched by this. And those marketers that can combine an ability to harness the machines to test reactions to creative based on customer empathy will be able to drive amazing results. Embrace our robot overlords!

What’s your proudest professional accomplishment?

I’m living it… We’re growing our business 2X+ every year and we’ve built one of the best marketing teams in Boston or anywhere from 2 to 27 people in under 3 years. I literally have the best marketing job in Boston.

What’s one (true) thing readers would be surprised to read about you?

People might be surprised to learn that when I was a kid I was a total drama geek and I wanted to be a Broadway actor. Believe it or not, I think studying International Relations and Economics in school and doing drama when I was young were the 2 key things that led to my being a halfway decent marketer. In both, you learn that context matters and your message should be delivered in a way that meets the needs of your audience and resonates with how they think and feel.

If you could create and run a food truck, what kind of truck (and food) would it be, and what would you call it?

Well, I have two. The first would be a truck that creates great craft cocktails and serves them to people to be consumed outside at some cool places in the city. There might be regulations that would make that one particularly hard, so my second one would be a truck that serves amazing Risotto that would change ingredients and recipes with the seasons. I’d call that the Arborio Truck.

Matt Johnston once tried to hire you. He was unsuccessful. Care to comment?

Yeah. Matt is my favorite boss that I never had. I’m fortunate enough that he still offers me advice even though I spurned his amazing offer for a different opportunity at the time.

We talk a lot about open marketing: to us, there are very real and meaningful differences between open and closed systems/platforms, as well as open vs closed approaches or philosophies to marketing and business in general. What does the idea of open marketing mean to you?

Two words – platforms win. The more open a system is, the more value it can deliver via connections to a broader eco-system, whether that is via the free movement of data through open integrations or the contributions of a community to an open source project. At ezCater, our martech stack stretches across a lot of different systems with the common characteristic of being able to share data and drive automated workflows across all of them. This gives us a lot more flexibility to accomplish more and do so at a reasonable cost.

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